At church recently, there was a very interesting sermon which took what we would see as an ordinary item, a boat, and demonstrated the symbolism and significance that it holds.
In Luke 5: 1-11, Jesus calls his first disciples from the shores of the Lake of Genessaret (which is an important moment in itself).
However, one can also see the focus of Peter’s life shift; from his boat which gave him his livelihood to Jesus, who would ultimately save his soul.
So, the preacher began by explaining that everyone has a ‘boat’, something that they put all their energy into and can be seen, in some ways, to define who they are, giving purpose and identity in life. This could be a possession such as a car or an act such as your education or career or maybe it’s your home or family. There are so many things that could be compared to Peter’s boat in our lives and it is often difficult to identify what they are. Focusing on these things can mean that we are separated from God; we cannot have a full relationship with Him because we are preoccupied with our ‘boat’.
At the beginning of the passage Peter is focusing all his attention on his boat, cleaning it from a night of fishing and ensuring that it is in a good condition for him to use again the following night. Many people will put a lot of effort into washing our car, for example, checking all its functions and making sure it is as well-kept as it can be. Others take pride in making sure that their family has everything they need and have a comfortable lifestyle.
And although these things are important to us, and indeed we should have things that we care about so deeply, are we putting too much energy into them?
Are they becoming more of a focus for our life than building up a close relationship, friendship, with God?
Do we need to re-consider our commitments, grow in our faith so that we can step out and wholly follow Jesus rather than relying on the safety of our ‘boat’?
When we are near the shore, as Peter is at the beginning of the passage, it feels safe with relatively few challenges. Faith is in shallow waters, the boat is stable and fairly secure, and Jesus is near but not too near. Trust in God is required but there is an easy way back to where we were.
As Jesus goes deeper out onto the Lake and tells Peter to lower the nets, full trust is required. After a night of fishing and catching nothing, it seems natural that Peter doesn’t expect to catch any fish now. But Peter obeys Jesus.
Despite having just cleaned the nets, despite wanting to go and get some rest after a long nights work, Peter obeys.
And this trust is rewarded with an enormous haul of fish.
Peter also recognises Jesus as ‘Master’ and then as ‘Lord’. He can see that this is an important man. And Peter takes a huge step in leaving behind his most precious possession, leaving behind his boat without tending to it, to follow Jesus.
This transfer of commitment and faith from the boat to Jesus emphasises the trust Peter had in God.
And this brings the question of: how much do we trust God?
How far are we willing to step out and leave our boat, our comfort area, to do God’s will?
How far will we let God push us?